The Atlanta Hawks have become one of the more interesting teams in the NBA as their rebuild is starting to shape form. After heavy initial criticism, last year’s decision to give up the chance to have Luka Doncic to trade back and take Trae Young along with an additional first round pick has gained more credibility throughout the league. Young’s average assists per game (8.1, 4th in the NBA) and assist percentage (40.5%, 3rd in the NBA) show that he is already one of the best playmakers in the game, and while he only shot 32.4% from beyond the arc, his free throw percentage of 82.9% is a very strong indicator that he has the mechanics to become more consistent from long range. Young displayed that he can be one of the elite points guards in the league one day, and his strong play insists that that day may come sooner rather than later.
Young wasn’t the only bright spot from last year for the Hawks, as John Collins showed flashes of future all-star potential as well. The big man from Wake Forest has proven to be one of the better picks of the 2017 draft, putting up an efficient 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game a season ago. He flashed the ability to shoot the 3 for the first time in his career, showing that he is willing to work on his weaknesses and will continue to grow his game. Kevin Huerter also had a bright rookie campaign last year playing the role of sharpshooter, as he will look to get his 38.5% 3-point shooting percentage even higher to further solidify his projected role as Trae Young’s backcourt mate of the future.
As for the rest of the starting lineup, the Hawks appear to have two main options they can choose from. They can continue start Alex Len at center, thus keeping Collins at the 4 spot and giving them a size advantage over their opponents. The problem with this, however, is that they will have to force one of their two newly drafted rookies (Deandre Hunter and Cam Reddish) to start out their career the bench. While this wouldn’t be the end of the world, it may be of Atlanta’s best interest to play their young guys as much as possible. Additionally, Reddish and Hunter have enough size to be a small-ball power forward, and this move will let Collins play the 5: the position that probably best suits his current game within the modern NBA.
While the Hawks certainly appear to have the talent level to pursue a playoff berth, that may not be their top priority. With their ceiling this year probably being just competing for the 8th seed, increasing their lottery odds in next year’s draft in order to even further add to their highly touted young core may make the most sense in the long term. However, playoff experience would also be very beneficial for Atlanta moving forward, as it would allow the roster to gain the confidence that they can compete against the leagues best.